To accelerate ions and protons at very high energy, a laser pulse of high intensity is focused on a target (usually a thin nanometre sheet) which will create a thin layer of plasma. Accelerated electrons « escape » on the non-irradiated target surface, generating an intense electric field, which first ionizes then accelerates to very high energies ions and protons on the target surface. This process is called Target Normal Sheath Acceleration (TNSA).
As electron laser-plasma acceleration, ion laser-plasma acceleration greatly benefits from APOLLON research infrastructure’s performances. Thanks to the very high intensity (> 1021 W/cm2) delivered on the target, it is envisioned that it could be possible to accelerate proton to never reached energies of several hundreds MeV, even possibly to the GeV level.
APOLLON offers the opportunity to explore exotic accelerations mechanisms such as directional Coulomb explosion of ultra-thin (nm) targets or radiation pressure acceleration. There is also the possibility to study regimes where electrons and ions are relativistic.
The ion beams produced on Apollon are expected to induce many original applications with high societal impact, such as the probing (using ion and / or neutron radiography) of highly dense objects, the detection of the composition and/or the structure of materials, or the measurement of highly transient and strong electromagnetic fields. Applications are also expected to span to laboratory astrophysics, with will be uniquely investigated in the relativistic mode, or nuclear physics.